updated 8/26/2010 11:07:57 AM ET 2010-08-26T15:07:57

Guests: Katy Tur, Zead Ramadan, Donna Marsh O‘Connor, Eric Kingson, Christina

Bellantoni, Faiz Shakir

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KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST (voice-over):  Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?

New York cab driver asked why he‘s fair, if he‘s a Muslim.  He says yes.  The passenger starts swearing and slashing him with a knife.

Who he is?  Why he did it?  Is it the rational hatred mutating or was he just drunk?  The unanswered questions multiply.

Meantime, you‘ve heard so much about, but so little, from the 9/11 families.

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DONNA MARSH O‘CONNOR, SEPTEMBER 11TH FAMILIES FOR PEACEFUL TOMORROWS: 

We do not say to Americans of any decent, no, you can‘t practice freedom of religion here.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Donna Marsh O‘Connor of the coalition New York Neighbors for American Values, today supporting the Park 51 Islamic center.  She lost her daughter on 9/11 and her unborn grand child.  She‘s our guest.

Alan Simpson apologizes.  But should he resign?  The co-chair of the Deficit Reduction Commission says either America or Social Security is, quote, “like a milk cow with 310 million (EXPLETIVE DELETED)”—says it in an e-mail to the head of the Older Women‘s League.

Midterm madness.  Murkowski gets tea-partied in Alaska after helping her citizens get nearly 6 bucks back for every dollar of federal tax they pay.  But Sister Sarah did not like her.

And in Florida‘s governor‘s race—

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RICK SCOTT ®, FLORIDA GOVERNOR CANDIDATE:  Remember me, the handsome bald guy?

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OLBERMANN:  I thought Rick Scott was the handsome bald Medicare fraud guy.

And the Beckoning.

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GLENN BECK, FOX NEWS HOST:  I am only writing a few bullet points and I am doing that so I don‘t get in the way of the spirit in case he wants to talk.  Sometimes—sometimes, he‘s screaming at me and I still can‘t hear it.

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OLBERMANN:  He being Rupert Murdoch?  Oh, and Beck made a joke about my dead mother.

And from Germany, why sportscasters who have desks and podiums on the field are hated worldwide.  There‘s a soccer ball coming, there‘s a soccer ball coming, there is a soccer ball coming!

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OLBERMANN:  All the news and commentary—now on COUNTDOWN.

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OLBERMANN:  Good evening from New York.

The political background of the alleged assailant is confused and even contradictory.  He worked as a volunteer videographer for a religious group which supported the Park 51 Islamic community center in New York and he may -- and he did say that he had just returned from Afghanistan, making a film there about a high school friend in the U.S. military—was apparently deeply concerned about the people and the war there.  While circumstances would suggest he may have been influenced by the Islamophobic hysteria of the last month, there are indications in the fast moving story that he may, in fact, have been more influenced by large amounts of alcohol.

Regardless, in our fifth story tonight: 21-year-old Michael Enright got into a New York City taxi last night, asked the driver if he was Muslim, got an affirmative answer, and then allegedly slashed the driver with a knife across the neck, face and shoulders.

First, Michael Enright, who was today arraigned on charges of attempted murder two, as a hate crime and other related charges, the circumstances of his alleged crimes chilling in their own right.  at approximately 6:14 last night, 24th street and 2nd Avenue, the 21-year-old Enright got into the cab of a driver who was subsequently identified as Ahmed Sharif, a 43-year-old, male.

According to Mr. Sharif‘s statement, Mr. Enright began asking friendly questions, quoting that statement, “Where he, Mr. Sharif, was from, how long he‘d been in America, if he was a Muslim, and if he was observing fast during Ramadan.”  Implicit in Mr. Sharif‘s statement and confirmed by the NYPD, Mr. Sharif responded that he was, indeed, a Muslim.

Returning to Mr. Sharif‘s statement, quoting, “He, Mr. Enright, then first became silent for a few minutes then suddenly started cursing and screaming.  He yelled “Assalamu Alaikum.  Consider this a checkpoint,” and then slashed Mr. Sharif across the neck.  As Mr. Sharif went to knock the knife out, the perpetrator continuing to scream loudly cut the taxi driver in the face, from nose to upper lip, arm and hand.”

Assalamu Alaikum, a common Islamic greeting meaning “Peace be with you.”  Mr. Sharif called 911, stopped the cab and reportedly locked Mr.  Enright inside until police arrive.  Both men were initially taken to Bellevue Hospital in New York.  Police say Mr. Enright was highly intoxicated, friends of his telling “Talking Points Memo” he has a drinking problem.  Enright was later charged with the aforementioned hate crimes.

Mr. Sharif is now recovering and in stable condition.  Another portion of his statement, “I feel very sad.  I have been here more than 25 years.  I have been driving a taxi more than 15 years.  All my four kids were born here.  I never feel this hopeless and insecure before.  Right now, the public sentiment is very serious, because of the Ground Zero mosque debate.  All drivers should be more careful.”

The New York City Taxi Workers Alliance, along with Mr. Sharif, will hold a news conference tomorrow morning to call for an end of the bigotry and anti-Islamic rhetoric in the debate around the Park 51 Islamic cultural center, it says.

Now, to Mr. Enright, and potentially bizarre amplification of his alleged crimes with a caveat that the information is still unfolding from various sources, much of this stems from a Facebook page.  Mr. Enright was reportedly a volunteer worker for Intersections International, a multi-faith, multicultural organization which has publicly supported what is now known as the Park 51 cultural center.

The executive director of the Intersections International is saying, quote, ‘If this is the same Michael Enright who has worked with Intersections, this is totally out of his character.”

Mr. Enright has also reportedly made a film about the experience of a high school friend, a Marine serving in Afghanistan.  Mr. Enright said he had been there recently for that purpose and there was indeed a film for which he was heavily attempting to get publicity.

And now to this—what might have been, what still could be one of the anecdotes to the kind of hate engendered by the hysterical opponents of Park 51.  More on Mr. Enright in the moment.  But, first, the rally today by family members of 9/11 victims in support of that Islamic center.  More on that in a moment.

And last night, once again calling out the lie of any so-called compromise on this issue, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg speaking at an Iftar dinner.

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MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (I), NEW YORK:  There are people of every faith—including perhaps some in this room—who are hoping that a compromise will end the debate.  But it won‘t.  The question will then become: how big should the no-Mosque zone be around the World Trade Center site?  There‘s already a mosque four blocks away.  Should it be moved?

This is a test of our commitment to American values.  And we have to have the courage of our convictions.

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OLBERMANN:  Back to the subject of Michael Enright.  Enright was trying to get publicity for that documentary.  He had reached out to at least one reporter, wound up talking to her five times, trading e-mails with her.  Katy Tur of our NBC station here in New York, WNBC, who joins us now from Queens.

Katy, describe what impression you had of his demeanor, stability, temperament—who was this guy?

KATY TUR, WNBC REPORTER:  You know, I got to tell you, the first time I spoke to this guy, I was struck by how incredibly polite he was.  He was “yes, ma‘am,” “no, ma‘am,” very polite on the phone.  Just wanted to get a point across of how he feels that soldiers really aren‘t getting enough attention back in the United States.

And, basically, he was trying to get me to do a story on him on his documentary.  He basically followed a family childhood friend as he enlisted, trained and then was sent off to Afghanistan.  He was there for about six weeks.  And when he came back he started editing the film.

And the inter—what‘s it called—

OLBERMANN:  Intersections International.

TUR:  Intersections International—thank you—contacted me and they said, we have this kid, Mike Enright.  He‘s very talented and I think you‘d be interested in the story.  And so, that‘s basically how I got in contact with him.

OLBERMANN:  Did you get impressions from this?  He‘d been in Afghanistan, at least he said he was, and the film would be evidence of that.  Did you get any impression after he e-mailed you about a story that you had done on this Park 51 controversy?  Did you get any sense that he was opposed to Muslims or Afghans or the project or anything about it?

TUR:  Well, the story has been the biggest story in New York for some time now.  And I‘ve done it a number of times.  And after one I did just a few days ago, I got an e-mail from Mr. Enright that said, “Hey, I really appreciate your story on the mosque, I think you did a good job, I hope to hear from you soon.”

And I never got an impression that he was anti-Muslim in any way.  I did feel like—I heard from a friend of his that he had a very intense experience in Afghanistan, but not that he had a negative impressions of Muslims.  You can see pictures that he posted up on Flickr with little Afghani children.

So, the idea he‘s anti-Muslim came as real shock to those who knew him.  Certainly it‘s a surprise to me who—because he seemed extraordinarily stable, at least on the phone, from the times that I spoke to him.

OLBERMANN:  So, when the executive director of the group says, if this is the Michael Enright who has worked with Intersections, this is totally out of his character.  Based on your limited interaction with him, do you agree with that statement?

TUR:  I would love to say that it‘s totally based—not in his character.  But I—from the limited interaction that I have had with him, I really couldn‘t tell you that.

He was very polite on the phone.  He was very nice.  He just wanted to get his point across that the Afghanistan war is not being paid enough attention in the media and in the United States.  He really wanted to create more of a dialogue between civilians and veterans.  He was working with families of fallen victims.

I got the impression he really wanted to get out the words of soldiers, not necessarily that he had anything against Muslims or their faith.  So, this came as a surprise certainly to me, but certainly more so to those who knew them.

OLBERMANN:  My dear friend Katy Tur of WNBC in New York—good work, great thanks.

TUR:  Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Let‘s bring in the president of the New York chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, Zead Ramadan.

Thanks for your time tonight, sir.

ZEAD RAMADAN, COUNCIL ON AMERICAN-ISLAMIC RELATIONS:  My pleasure, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Obviously, it will be charged as a hate crime.  Are there other explanations for this?  If the man had a drinking problem, if he‘d just back from Afghanistan and was trying to promote coverage of the wars and veterans and ally veterans with civilians—could there be another explanation for this?

RAMADAN:  You know, this is very puzzling.  Whether consciously or subconsciously, this gentleman started slashing away at someone after he asked him if he was a Muslim.  So, that was a direct—that was a direct connect.

My theory is—and my question is really: what made him tick?  Is all this horrible rhetoric that‘s out there these days really causing people to turn from, you know, freedom of expression, to violence?

OLBERMANN:  Is—what do you—how do you—how do you approach this from your point of view and from the important issue that is at hand here, which is this late surge of Islamophobia?  If, in fact, this is not somebody who is otherwise Islamophobic, but perhaps was—just—who knows, posttraumatic stress disorder, I don‘t want to try to diagnose him here.

RAMADAN:  Right.

OLBERMANN:  We‘ll be doing that for the next few days.  But, obviously, this is a very nuanced story.  It‘s more than just some guy—the stuff we‘ve seen at mosques around the country and the naked stupid hatred of the fellow in Kentucky who said a Baptist church next door to his flower shop would be fine because the Baptists would respect parking zones and Muslims would not.  It‘s not that kind of story.

RAMADAN:  No, these are pathetic excuses for the hatred and the fearmongering that‘s been, you know, spewed over the area, you got to stop the Islamization of America with Robert Spencer, who‘s basically our modern day Jim Jones.  And he‘s poisoning people over the Internet.

And, unfortunately, these people who think they‘re on his side, he‘s throwing him under the bus.  And they‘re making these ridiculous comments and they‘re going out there and they‘re attacking Muslims.

In Brooklyn, just a couple of months ago, there was a Bangladeshi man on a construction—he was a construction worker on a break from lunch and he was approached by three teens.  And they asked him, are you a Muslim?  And he said, yes, and they said go back to your bleeping country.  Then they attacked him.  And the man was in a coma.

OLBERMANN:  Right.

RAMADAN:  He‘s currently out of a job, can‘t support his children. 

But this is the kind of rhetoric.

And now, these are teens.  They could not be prosecuted as adults.  I‘m telling you, teens, how are these teens being affected by the rhetoric and hate and fearmongering that they‘re listening to on the net, over the air?

OLBERMANN:  But it would be irony if this man became representative of all the bad that‘s going where he was perhaps not guilty of it in that same way.

RAMADAN:  Unfortunately.

OLBERMANN:  Let me ask you something positive about this.

RAMADAN:  Sure.

OLBERMANN:  The mayor of the city of New York forcefully asserted himself last night into this event.  And restated his opinion that compromise is by itself a defeat of religious freedom and what this country is about.

RAMADAN:  Right.

OLBERMANN:  Don‘t we need—I think Mayor Bloomberg has shined in this occasion in a way perhaps he never has before—but don‘t we need, desperately need other leaders of all faiths and political stripes to step up in the same way?

RAMADAN:  You know, Keith, I was there last night and it was a very moving speech.  Once again, you know, Mayor Bloomberg‘s a student of history and he knows he wants to stand on the right side of history once it‘s told years from now.

He does not want to stand on the side of McCarthy.  He wants to stand on the side of Ben Franklin and Thomas Jefferson and George Washington—the people who worked for decades to create and ratify a Constitution to protect all Americans, all Americans, negligent of their religion, race or creed.

And I think he‘s doing an honorable job.  I just wish—and I heard you talk about it and I completely agree with you.  I think some Democrats have to step up and some people just have to step up and say, listen, I‘m going to be on the right side of history here.  I don‘t want to be person who‘s remembered as a persecutor of my own—of my own people, my fellow Americans.

OLBERMANN:  Zead Ramadan, New York chapter of Council on American-Islamic Relations—good luck with it and great thanks for your time tonight.

RAMADAN:  Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Let‘s turn now to Donna Marsh O‘Connor, who attended the rally today in New York in support of the Islamic community center as part of September 11th Families for a Peaceful Tomorrow.  Her pregnant daughter died on 9/11.

Thanks for being with us.

O‘CONNOR:  Thank you.

OLBERMANN:  I‘m sorry it‘s under this circumstance.  But tell us how you came to be associated with this group?

O‘CONNOR:  I joined in 2004 after, you know, really getting exhausted by some of the questions I had about why our government did one thing or another and not, you know?  And this was a group of people who really from the beginning stood up for what was right and what was best about America, and decided that they were going to walk away from Ground Zero and they were going to walk toward a better future.  And so, they reached out to people across the globe who had been victims of violence, civilian victims, and you know, really just tried to say, there people in America who really don‘t want to engage in this kind of hostility, not without the exhaustion of our diplomatic potential.

And you know, I guess two years ago, I came to the conclusion, actually after speaking to a journalist who finally, you know, convinced me that the legacy I want to leave to my own sons is not an angry mother, that I needed them and they needed me.  And so, at that point, I got more involved in the organization.  I‘ve been a member since 2004.

And now, I would say, I wonder if I have a life outside of Peaceful Tomorrows, but you know, these are hard times.

OLBERMANN:  They are.  Where has this come from in the last—in the last few weeks and months?  It seems like it‘s escalating but—

(CROSSTALK)

O‘CONNOR:  Yes, absolutely.  This has been brewing since 9/11.  I mean, you know, we have politicians who have been capitalizing on the fear and hatemongering.  And let‘s face it, they benefited from this.

There is no way we would have been the average American citizen, we would not have been OK with an invasion of Iraq unless somehow the average American at that micro-moment of what does, you know, what does Muslim mean, could point to Saddam Hussein and equate Saddam Hussein with Osama bin Laden.  You know, we have been told by many of our leaders that there was absolutely no reason to invade Iraq.  Al Qaeda wasn‘t there.  Blah, blah, blah, we all know these stories.

OLBERMANN:  Yes.

O‘CONNOR:  So, from my point of view, this is an escalation of, you know, what has been going on?  I mean, when people will accuse the president of the United States of being Muslim, the problem with the accusation is in its nature it means it‘s a crime.

OLBERMANN:  Yes.

O‘CONNOR:  You know, it‘s a problem.  Well, you know, I—I honestly have to say, I never really expected to be in this position in America.  That we don‘t understand that you can‘t excerpt the fact that this is an argument about religious tolerance just because none of us individually wants to be called a bigot.  So, we cause bigotry and racial intolerance.

And, you know, these concepts about sensitivity to 9/11 families—well, I‘m a 9/11 family member as well.  And I want to leave my sons - you know, look, I‘m not naive.  I know this is the not—you know, this great wonderful democracy.  Unless individual citizens understand that the democracy lives in their actions, not in their entitlements.  It‘s in our responsibilities to one another and not what we individually are entitled to in terms of our own, in many cases, uneducated opinions.

When I see the towers fall, that causes me pain.  I would say to you, you‘re a journalist, can you not do it on 9/11, can you not do it?  But you have a right to do it.  You have a right to free speech, and I have to acknowledge that the pain I am feeling essentially comes from 19 individual criminals who murdered 3,000 people on our soil.  And it has left us horrifically scared.

I went into the subway today for the first time in a long time, and except for the fact that they allowed dogs in little carriers, it was a different experience for me.

OLBERMANN:  Yes.

O‘CONNOR:  And, you know, these are the times we live in.  We accept them.  But I‘m not going to accept an America that now will perpetrate a brand new group of Muslim-American children who will grow up feeling unvalued in this nation.  Because I know from experience what my students who are African-Americans feel when, you know, we say, it‘s—we‘re in a new land, there‘s no racism here.

Well, every moment that we don‘t acknowledge white privilege, we stab them.  So, I‘m not OK with that and our group is not OK with that.

OLBERMANN:  Donna Marsh O‘Connor of September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows—beautifully said.  I‘m overwhelmed.  And I‘m deeply appreciative of your time.

O‘CONNOR:  Thank you.  And yours as well.

OLBERMANN:  And this is—this is a bad way to get off the hook in terms of speaking publicly if you‘re going to speak like that, it was wonderful.  Thank you again.

O‘CONNOR:  Thank you.

OLBERMANN:  Bad language, worse intent on the supposedly bipartisan panel to reduce the deficit calls for the resignation of co-chair Alan Simpson, the former senator, after he uses an inappropriate term about women to the head of the Older Women‘s League.

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OLBERMANN:  The Republican co-chairing the position on deficit reduction, he emails the head of the Older Women‘s League and describes either Social Security or the country is being like a milked cow with 310 million.

This Republican senator helped get her constituents more federal funding per capita than those of any other state in the nation but she wasn‘t Tea Party enough for Sarah Palin.  So, now, she‘s lost renomination.

And using her head, gets ahead of the story, makes the head line, as German soccer reporter shows us why the job really requires you to keep your eye on the ball—the eye in the back of your head.

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OLBERMANN:  Former U.S. Senator Alan Simpson is apologizing tonight for what he said about—well, about you.

On our fourth story tonight, before we get to the outrage of what he said, though, the context matters on this one.  Simpson was tapped by President Obama as the Republican co-chair of a panel charged with figuring out how to reduce America‘s national debt and spending.

Despite the fact that defense spending, including at least one war of choice and the Bush tax cuts account for a massive chunk of the deficit and Social Security accounts for none of it, Simpson is on record saying the panel will target spending that benefits the sick, the needy and the old, including Social Security, even though Social Security on track to remain fully solvent for decades.

Other points to keep in mind: The average senior citizen over 65 lives on less than $30,000 a year.  The average Social Security beneficiary gets $13,900 a year.  Because women have been paid less for equal work in this country, they get less in benefits.  Female beneficiaries are getting only about $11,000 a year.

One quarter of black older women live in poverty now.  Forty-five percent of older women who live alone live in poverty now.

And while the panel talks about raising the retirement rate because American life expectancy is longer, in fact, poor minority women have recently seen decreases in life expectancy—meaning raising the retirement age to 70, as some have suggested, would not toss 1.5 million people into poverty, but would force some minority working poor to work until they drop.

So, that‘s the context—social safety net that‘s not in trouble and not worsening our debt, a literal lifeline for millions of Americans, especially poor Americans, especially poor female Americans, especially poor female minority Americans.

So, with that context, what did former Senator Simpson say when a blogger criticized him for calling those who oppose Social Security cuts, quote, “pink panthers”?

Here‘s his email to her: “If you have better suggestions about how to stabilize Social Security instead of just babbling into the vapors, let me know, and yes, I‘ve made some plenty funny cracks about people on Social Security who milk it to the last degree.  You know ‘em too.  It‘s the same with any system in America.”

Still quoting, “We‘ve reached a point now where it‘s like a milk cow with 310 million”—you can see the word for yourself.  Concluding, quote, “Call us when you get honest work.”

Who was the blogger Simpson wrote that to?  The executive director of the National Older Women‘s League that he told to, quote, “get honest work” and to whom he referenced a slang word for women‘s breasts.

Simpson today apologized, but not before he got a stinging rebuke from the American Association of Retired Persons.  Calls for President Obama to remove Simpson coming from Senator Bernie Sanders and Pete DeFazio, the National Organization for Women, the National Council of Women‘s Organizations, and surprisingly enough, the National Older Women‘s League.

All of them well aware of not only of Simpson‘s hostility towards Social Security and benefits for the sick, old and needy, but also Simpson‘s track record of nasty rhetoric—including when questioned by a Social Security advocate—calling beneficiaries, quote, “lesser people.”

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ALAN SIMPSON, FORMER U.S.SENATOR:  We‘re really working on solvency. 

The key is solvency.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  And what about adequacy?  Are you focusing on adequacy as well?

SIMPSON:  Sure.  We have to take care of the grassroots.  (INAUDIBLE) 

What are you doing?  Where do you come up with the crap you come up with?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Well, I just want—that‘s what I wanted to ask you.

(CROSSTALK)

SIMPSON:  Give it to you before you ask it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes.

SIMPSON:  We‘re trying to take care of the lesser people in society.  We always have.  And do that in a way without getting in all the flash words that you like to dig up, like cutting Social Security which is (EXPLETIVE DELETED).  We‘re not cutting anything.  We‘re not cutting anything.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  OK.

SIMPSON:  We‘re trying to make it solvent.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Calling for Alan Simpson‘s departure tonight, Eric Kingson, co-chair of the Strength and Social Security Campaign, co-director of Social Security Works and professor of social work at Syracuse University.  He joins us now.

Thanks for your time tonight, sir.

ERIC KINGSON, STRENGTHENSOCIALSECURITY.ORG:  Thank you.  Glad to be here.

OLBERMANN:  Three hundred and ten million—OK.  I‘m pretty sure that‘s just about the population of the United States.  So, in that lurid remark, what is Senator Simpson saying about us?

KINGSON:  Well, frankly, I think it says a lot more about Senator Simpson than it says about the 310 million of our fellow citizens.  It says the senator doesn‘t respect us.

It doesn‘t—he doesn‘t respect that Americans have earned the right

to Social Security benefits, have worked hard to perpetuate it for

themselves and their families.  He doesn‘t care particularly that there are

that every one of our children is protected against loss of a parent by Social Security and that it‘s the fundamental retirement security program for the country.

           

It‘s no wonder that Senator Simpson is leading the charge to cut Social Security.

OLBERMANN:  But he claims he‘s trying to reduce our debt by saving a program which he does not clearly want to save.  By the way, doesn‘t need saving.  And if you somehow, quote, “saved it,” it would not reduce the debt.  Can you help me out on the logic behind this?

KINGSON:  Oh, beats me, Keith.  I‘m not sure I can help you out.

I can say this: It‘s perfectly consistent with some of the foolish comments that have been coming out, or some of the silliness that in the name of protecting our grandchildren, Mr. Simpson and Mr. Bowles, the other co-chair, and many others in Washington who want to cut Social Security, in the name of protecting our grandchildren, they want to eviscerate benefits for our grandchildren.

I think they got this mixed up.  They‘re really trying to protect their grandchildren and the grandchildren of Wall Street bankers.

OLBERMANN:  If the fix is in on this panel, why not leave Simpson in as the co-chair because it‘s obvious to everyone as you implied there, essentially that this recommendations that they will—the recommendations they‘ll come out with are corrupted by their own viewpoint walking in?

KINGSON:  Well, interesting point.  Two things need to change on the commission: Mr. Simpson needs to be removed and Social Security needs to be removed from the discussion about the deficit.  Social Security does not contribute a penny, not a penny, to the nation‘s long-term deficit debt.

And there is absolutely no reason for an unrepresentative body which -

of people who have fundamentally stated their interest, many of whom have stated their interest, including their co-chairs, even before the commission began.  They said they wanted to cut the American people‘s Social Security.  It had to be done.  Even though it‘s—we are not dealing with a significant financing problem and it has nothing to do with the federal deficit.

           

OLBERMANN:  Eric Kingson, professor of social work at Syracuse University in the wake of the Simpson imbroglio—great thanks for your time tonight.

KINGSON:  Thank you.

OLBERMANN:  Did the half governor succeed in driving Lisa Murkowski out of the Senate and out of the Republican Party?

First, the cartoons and the new meaning to the soccer term, header.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Sarah Palin‘s victory in Alaska, dethroning a senator who got their state funds and influence all out of proportion with its population and size. 

First the sanity break.  The Twitter repot: followers, 99,861. I have to think of something to do for the number 100,000.  Last photo tweeted of self, Monday afternoon.  Tweet of the day from HalfKidOgal or HalfDDogAl—

I don‘t know.  “Top ten things heard at Beck rally, the sound of cash going into his pocket.”  It‘s not cash.  Those are souvenir gold coins with a picture of Beck on one side, and Andy Griffith as Lonesome Rhodes on the other. 

Let‘s play Oddball.

In sports, we begin at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.  Texas beat Minnesota, and even though the game had all sorts of playoff implications, it was overshadowed when they hit a snag delivering the first pitch.  This is a member of the Army Golden Knights, known only as John.  Parachute catches on the way down.  On the scoreboard tonight—

He was rescued quickly and without incident.  And No, during this, nobody said, hey, let‘s run it up the flag pole and see who salutes. 

Now to German big-time soccer, the Bundesleaga (ph).  Meet Jessica Katstroff (ph).  In any language, she‘s one of those reporters whose presence, especially if they have their own desk or podium on the field, annoy all athletes nationwide.  We join Jessica as she reports from that Shtutgard (ph) Man‘s Showdown.  She‘s attacking the story head-on. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Thanks to 44 levels of mandatory TV sports hair spray, Ms.  Katstroff was incredibly unharmed.  Forward and to the right.  Forward and to the right.  The offending player later came over and apologized.  Ms.  Katstroff says she will try to be more aware when she‘s on the field, especially if they next send her to cover the world championships of darts. 

The midterms and the half governor believes in miracles, yes.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  What looks like an upset in Alaska, as the Tea Party rails against the state‘s senior senator for her ties to big government, even though Alaska has long benefited from those big government dollars.  Meanwhile, Republicans in Florida nominate a man who ran a business, guilty of fraud to run their state.  In our third story, both outcomes could mean good news for the Democrats in the midterms. 

Following last night‘s primary, Alaska Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski now waiting for absentee ballots to be counted, at a 2,000 vote deficit against Tea Party favorite, Palin endorsed, Ivy League educated Joe Miller.  Palin Tweeting a potential Miller win would be “a miracle on ice.”

Mr. Miller is crediting Palin‘s seal of approval for his surprise lead.  Quote, “I‘m absolutely certain that it was pivotal.”  Senator Murkowski also crediting Palin‘s endorsement in the race, telling the “Anchorage Daily News,” “I think she‘s out for her own self-interest.  I don‘t think she‘s out for Alaska‘s interest.”

This just, in senator.  Bad blood between Palin and the Murkowski family goes back nearly a decade, when governor Frank Murkowski appointed daughter Lisa to replace him in the Senate, instead of Palin, who narrowly lost her bid for lieutenant governor.  Four years later, Palin beat Governor Murkowski, only to quit after serving half a term. 

Senator Murkowski accusing Palin of abandoning the state.  Palin, meanwhile, through various Facebook missives, has tied Murkowski to big government spending, even though, through Murkowski and the late Ted Stevens and their four decades in the Senate, the state of Alaska has long benefited from that federal money.  The anti-stimulus Miller laments Washington‘s head long plunge into socialism and more government control, even though, as investigative website ProPublica reports, Alaska has received the most stimulus money in the nation.  One Republican state lawmaker told the “New York Times,” “I‘ll give the federal government credit.  They sure give us a ton of money.  For every dollar we give them in taxes for highways, they give us back 5.77 dollars.”

Meanwhile, a bit further south, Florida‘s Republican gubernatorial primary saw Rick Scott squeezing out a narrow victory over Republican establishment candidate, Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum, the former congressman.  Mr. Scott has claimed he‘ll run Florida as a business.  Here‘s what we know about Mr. Scott‘s business running ability: he was the CEO and co-founder of the Colombia HCA hospital chain.  After the FBI raided its office, Mr. Scott was ousted and his business was fined 1.7 billion dollars for fraud. 

Florida has the highest proportion of elderly people in the nation. 

The fine Mr. Scott‘s business paid was, in part, for bilking Medicare. 

Joining me now, Christina Bellantoni, senior reporter at TalkingPointsMemo.com.  Thanks for your time tonight. 

CHRISTINA BELLANTONI, “TALKING POINTS MEMO”:  Good evening, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  It‘s a census year.  The next governor of Florida will hold a lot of power over how the Congressional districts are redrawn.  Is Mr. Scott‘s victory potentially good news for Democrats, in some bizarre way?

BELLANTONI:  You know, that‘s a great question.  Right now, you‘ve got Democrat Alex Sink leading in the polls.  But there are still a lot of undecided people.  Florida always a major swing state.  You‘re going to have a lot of national attention this year, because it‘s got a competitive Senate primary. 

The thing to remember about Rick Scott, in addition to what Democrats are excited about, what they think they can tarnish him with his 1.7 billion dollars, as you mentioned, in fines.  But he‘s a millionaire and he has a lot of money.  He already spent 50 million dollars to defeat the Republican who was better known at the time, McCollum, in this race.  And now he‘s sort of established himself on television.  He‘s spent all up and down Florida, which is a very expensive state to advertise in.  And he‘s prepared to spend even more. 

So the state party is actually pretty pleased about this.  They think it‘s going to help Florida Republicans get a lot of attention for basically no money, because Scott‘s going to fund it all himself. 

OLBERMANN:  To Alaska, one of the things besides this big money problem that Alaska faces, in which they get all the big money and they were just convinced to vote against the senator who helped them get all the big money from the federal government—Senator Murkowski had a key role - - still has one now—on the Senate energy committee.  What are the implication for energy policy if Alaska doesn‘t have that seat anymore on that committee? 

BELANTONI:  Yeah, that‘s a really good question.  I‘ve been talking to my sources within the Senate today about this.  And essentially Senator Murkowski has tacked a little bit to the right in the last year, in part because she had a primary.  But she did co-sponsor a pretty good, in the minds of Democrats, bill with Senator Arlen Specter last year.  That‘s one of the reasons that Republicans were frustrated with her—some Republicans were frustrated with her in Alaska, because they felt she was too left leaning. 

Now at the same time, she tried to block this new EPA regulations on engaged species and carbon.  So she‘s gone to both sides.  She‘s gone off that committee.  She was known as sort of a compromiser in a way.  She worked well with the chairman, Senator Jeff Bingaman.  The next in line to replace her is Senator Richard Burr, who is a very conservative Republican from North Carolina.  He‘s something of a question mark, actually.  When you look at his record, you know where he stands on some things.  But you don‘t exactly know where he stands on drilling.  He‘s been on the subcommittee dealing with national parks, but hasn‘t really been a major player there. 

A the same time, you never know what could happen in a new year.  The Senate could completely shuffle other committees entirely. 

OLBERMANN:  And Murkowski is a possible third party candidate in Alaska?  What happens then? 

BELANTONI:  That‘s very unlikely.  In fact, the “Tribune” reported late tonight that they spoke to that independent party and asked them about Murkowski doing that and they said absolutely not.  What I‘m hearing is that it‘s possible she could do a write-in candidacy.  And has until five days before the general election to declare her candidacy in that. 

The problem is they don‘t allow stickers in Alaska.  She would have to mount what essentially amounts to an independent campaign to make sure people wrote her name in.  And giving her showing, very close in this primary—she may still win.  It‘s down to 1,400 separating her and Joe Miller.  So it‘s possible she could pull this out, although not that likely, my sources are telling me in Alaska. 

OLBERMANN:  TalkingPointsMemo.com senior reporter Christina Bellantoni, our thanks as always. 

BELANTONI:  Thank you. 

OLBERMANN:  Glenn Beck says God yells at him.  And Glenn Beck also makes a joke about my dead mother. 

Worsts.  He did it again.  They asked about baseball and his answer was about, guess what? 

And when Rachel joins you at the top of the hour, she talks to Frank Rich about how the Islamic center controversy could be hurting U.S.  strategy in Afghanistan.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  The Beck-ening.  Lonesome Rhodes says he‘s going to ad lib it so he can speak through him.  He being Aqua Buddha? 

First, get out your pitchforks and torches, time for tonight‘s worst persons in the world. 

The bronze to Preston Reninger (ph) of Allentown, Pennsylvania.  Police there say they were interviewing another resident, Mr. Sergio Vial (ph), about how his car had been stolen when Mr. Reninger allegedly drove up, the window down, the stereo playing loudly, his arm out the window of his car—well, actually not Mr. Reninger‘s car.  Mr. Vial‘s car.  Reninger drove the car he allegedly stole right past the cops as they took the statement from the guy he stole it from. 

Our runner up, Rudy Giuliani.  Steven Brown of the “Brooklyn Paper” interviewed the ex-mayor at a Staten Island Yankees at Brooklyn Cyclones minor league baseball game last Wednesday.  Brown thought it would be fun to  see what Giuliani would say when asked who he would be rooting for.  Mr. Giuliani‘s answer was, “I remember I came here the Friday before 9/11.  There was a beautiful view of the World Trade Center.  There was a nice view of the Towers from Staten Island‘s ballpark too.” 

Like one of those dolls with the draw strings; you ask it a question about minor league baseball and you still get three references to 9/11 in just 33 words. 

But our winner, Nick Turkow (ph), MD, the CEO of Aurora Health Care of Wisconsin, which operates Aurora Medical Center in Kenosha.  The family of Trevor Hill of Zion, Illinois, has received a bill from Aurora for more than 2,000 dollars.  Trevor, who is 17, was brought there Monday for a precautionary exam after an incident at Silver Lake in Kenosha.  The hospital wants two grand for checking Trevor out.  The ambulance company wants 700 bucks after the incident. 

The incident?  Trevor saved an unconscious boy at the lake from drowning when the life guard was busy or late or something, and he‘s been suspended.  So save a life, swallow a little water, and get charged 2,700 bucks for your good deed. 

Dr. Nick Turkow, head of Aurora Health Care of Wisconsin—hi, everybody, today‘s worst person in the world.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  According to Glenn Beck, Saturday‘s 8/28 Restoring Honor Rally will not be a Tea Party event, though groups like Freedom Works and Americans for Prosperity are involved.  Will not be political at all—

Sarah Palin will be there.  And it won‘t be about any one religion, even though he scheduled the rally on Saturday, he said, so nobody would have to work on the Sabbath. 

In our number one story, today Beck announced a late add to Saturday‘s program, another special guest speaker whose words he plans to personally channel.  The Beck-ening is coming.  Even his fellow ultra-conservatives are getting a little hinky when it comes to Beck‘s Saturday spectacle.  Right wing blogger Erik Eriksson—Erik Erickson wondered allowed to “Politico” that Beck may be doing these events for himself rather than for the movement. 

Fox News is still attempting to appear to keep its distance from the Beck rally.  Executive Bill Shine telling “Politico,” quote, “there‘s no organized promotion planned for the rally on Fox News.  And the network has nothing to do with it.”  Unless you count Beck pumping 8/28 during  Bill-O‘s program, and on “Fox and Friends,” where they gladly pointed people to Beck‘s website.  Of course, there‘s Beck‘s own Fox News show. 

Media Matters point out Beck promoted his rally 38 separate times on his Fox broadcast.  This week, Fox News even rolled out a nifty “Road to Restoring Honor” graphics package for the Beck thing they have nothing to do with.  then there‘s the Fox News end of days style promo. 

That‘s right.  On Saturday, Abe is coming to life and he‘s going to kick Glenn‘s ass.  Luckily for Fox, Beck does most of his damage on radio.  Here he is this morning on the separate preparation of his speech and the being he expects to help him deliver it. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GLENN BECK, FOX NEWS ANCHOR:  -- bullet points of the speech.  And you want to talk about trust in the Lord.  I know that people are going to hammer me, because they‘re going to say, that‘s no Martin Luther King speech.  Of course it‘s not Martin Luther King. 

Instead of going for a speech writer or anything else, or trying to write something very eloquent, I‘m only writing a few bullet points.  And I am doing that so I don‘t get in the way of the spirit, in case he wants to talk.  And I—I would just ask that you to pray for me—you want to talk about a risk.  If you would just pray that I would be able to hear because sometimes—sometimes he‘s screaming at me and I still can‘t hear it. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  He being minority Fox owner Prince Al Walid.  Then there is this from last week about my mother, who is deceased. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BECK:  I thought about doing a little—kind of a cool little program where we would ask a listener a day to watch the program so we knew somebody was watching for Keith. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  And it would double his ratings.  If not triple. 

BECK:  Well, he doesn‘t watch it.  Who else?  His mom.  His mom.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  His mom watches.  I didn‘t know that.  Boy, she is

--

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  She‘s a saint. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  She‘s a saint. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Even if he didn‘t know my mother passed away last year, what happened to that thing he said about leave the families out of it?  Fraud. 

Faiz Shakir is the editor in chief of ThinkProcess.org.  Welcome back to the program, sir. 

FAIZ SHAKIR, THINKPROGRESS.ORG:  Thanks for having me. 

OLBERMANN:  All right, he thinks someone—we assume—he said the spirit.  We‘re assuming it‘s the almighty screaming at him.  Is he OK? 

SHAKIR:  Glenn Beck is a self-professed rodeo clown, Keith.  He‘s somebody who has said openly that if you take what I say as the gospel, you‘re an idiot.  That‘s a good admonition for all of us that he is, of course, somebody who sees himself as some kind of messianic figure for the angry, for the aggrieved, for the wronged.  The ego on the guy is amazing.  So is he OK?  No, of course not.  The guy is insane. 

OLBERMANN:  On the radio program today, “God will wash this nation in blood if he has to.”  Now he‘s invoking John Brown rather than God.  But he doesn‘t have to.  He said, “put your faith in God and push people again to look at gold.”  Is it messianic stuff or is this just sort of a super cynical advanced standard, in for the money televangelism?  Do we have an idea?  Could it be both at the same time? 

SHAKIR:  I think he wants to see himself as the leader of people who are I think carrying the white man‘s burden, quite honestly.  He sees the discord in the country, the economic distress of people who can‘t find jobs in poor areas.  He preys on them.  He feeds them misinformation.  He‘s a man—a preacher of ignorance.  He uses the social discords in our society, the Ground Zero Mosque, the immigration debate, and he uses them to divide us and tear us apart. 

Those are his base and those are the people he wants to preach to. 

OLBERMANN:  Let me assure you, guys like Glenn Beck are the white man‘s burden.  I can tell you that without question.  We got Freedom Works, the Dick Armey—oh, no, no, we didn‘t plan anything other than several years worth of planning.  Tea Party Patriots, Americans for Prosperities, the Koch Brothers Group, Sarah Palin all involved in one way or another.  This is—who believes that it‘s not political? 

SHAKIR:  Besides himself, I don‘t know anybody who does.  I think it‘s

it‘s just a talking point, of course, to get us to buy into the nonsense that he‘s selling.  Of course if he wanted it to be a unity rally, in the spirit of Dr. King, he would have invited prominent liberals, prominent progressives, prominent Democrats to join him.  He did not.  Ted Nugent is going to be there. 

           

He‘s got a lot of angry people who have something to sell.  As you mentioned, the Americans for Prosperity, the Koch funded Americans for Prosperity is busing people in for this event.  It‘s very much a political event.  He says it‘s for fund-raising for the troops.  I looked at this, and if you look at the website, there‘s fine print at the very bottom, Keith, of the contribution.  It says, “all contributions made to the Special Operations Warriors Foundation will first be applied to the costs of Restoring Honor Rally.” 

So he—he‘s a multi-millionaire and yet he‘s using the money that he‘s getting to pay off this rally in the first place.  Anything that‘s left over will go to the troops.  If he‘s really honest about wanting to commit to the troops, he should pay out of his pocket for this rally. 

OLBERMANN:  By the way, my understanding was Ted Nugent canceled; he had a conflict.  Last question, are we best served here greeting this with sarcasm and analysis or by ignoring it? 

SHAKIR:  I think you have to take him seriously, quite honestly, Keith.  He has got a lot of people who are going to come in.  He sees himself as a Martin Luther King figure.  There‘s a lot of people who buy that nonsense.  I think if there‘s one thing that we get out of this, Keith, is that this is an opportunity to reflect on Martin Luther King‘s legacy. 

I took a second to go look at Dr. King‘s speech.  I thought I‘d close by just referencing one line of it.  He said in his famous August 28th, 1963 speech, “in the process of gaining our rightful place, we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds.  Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.” 

OLBERMANN:  Faiz Shakir, editor in chief at Think Progress, thanks for your time tonight. 

SHAKIR:  Thank you, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  That‘s COUNTDOWN.  It‘s the 2,673rd since President Bush declared mission accomplished in Iraq, the 2,262nd since he declared victory in Afghanistan, and the 128th day of the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf.  I‘m Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck.

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